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Published on June 7th, 2019 | by voxx

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Aldous Harding – Designer

The New Zealand singer excels on gorgeous but unsettling third…

On the surface, the indie-folk of Aldous Harding’s Designer feels buoyant, bright and a bit twee – all skittish grooves and mellifluous melodies. Yet there’s a deeply unnerving quality buried within this superficially sunnier follow-up to Party, the album of poised and portentous dirges that made the musician’s name.

Alongside long-time PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish’s cloyingly intimate production – the kind where you can hear lips smacking against each other and fingers moving across the fretboard – is some bizarre imagery, with lyrics calling to mind odd and not particularly pleasant dreams. “What am I doing in Dubai?” she asks on ‘Zoo Eyes’, while ‘Heaven Is Empty’ imagines a “big, cold bird” carrying a baby and ‘The Barrel’ repeats the command, “show the ferretto the egg.”

Harding herself, meanwhile, shape-shifts throughout. Sometimes her voice is lugubrious, recalling Nico on the solemnly gorgeous ‘Damn’, a song seemingly pregnant with the weight of some ancient, unknown tragedy. At other times, as on the Hawaiian-tinged ‘Weight Of The Planets’, it’s as light and clear as consommé. Compounding the disorientating nature of those fluctuations in tone is Harding’s habit of warping her voice, pronouncing words in a strange, impossible-to-place accent.

Over the course of Designer these understated but insistent quirks accumulate into something both fascinating and frightening, highly eccentric and blisteringly beautiful – a record destined to worm its way deep under the skin.

- By Jake White


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